NEWARK — When Marydale Retirement Village wanted to start a food pantry, its administrator, Cathy Weaver, turned to an old friend, and a partnership was born that will benefit the residents of the Newark residence.
The idea was to open a pantry “that reflects the unique needs of the elderly population that we serve,” Weaver said. “We have begun to partner with groups that are willing to buy smaller supply items that our residents can come in and pick up. St. Francis was very willing to help us get this launched.”
St. Francis Healthcare is the old friend. Weaver was a longtime administrator at St. Francis Hospital, where she served as vice president of mission and human resources and later as executive vice president of mission integration for Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic, the hospital’s parent company. She became manager of Marydale in August 2020.
Weaver contacted Ed Lis, the mission leader at St. Francis, about partnering for the food pantry. The hospital made Marydale its service project for October, the month of St. Francis of Assisi. It was an easy decision, Lis said.
“I only needed to do two things to get where we got. One was to say we’re going to give in the spirit of St. Francis. So, we celebrated St. Francis month all the month of October, and we concluded with this food drive,” he said.
“And then, of course, mentioning Cathy Weaver’s name really helped. Everybody knows and loves Cathy. I can’t tell you the number of people who said, ‘Anything for Cathy Weaver.’”
Lis said he has known Weaver for years, and she established a foundation at St. Francis, and part of that is “calling on the generosity of our colleagues. They hear a need and they meet it.”
Marydale has 110 residents in its 108 units. There are two married couples; everyone else lives in his or her own unit, each with its own kitchen and laundry. Many are widowed. Weaver wanted a pantry that would benefit them, with a focus on shelf-stable foods in sizes that made sense for the people who live there.
Marydale serves low-income seniors, with 80 percent of its residents under the poverty level. Weaver said the pantry will be welcome on the grounds.
“Being able to supplement their food is really a big help,” she said. “This is just one more way that we can take a little bit of the squeeze off of their budget at the end of the month.”
On the day Lis arrived with a vehicle full of food, several residents were in the community building playing online bingo. They paused for a few minutes to sift through the boxes, and a few picked out some goodies to take back to their homes.
Lis said this endeavor reminded him of a line from an animated film he used to watch with his daughter, 2005’s “Robots.” Mr. Bigweld, voiced by Mel Brooks, says, “See a need, fill it.”
“That is the spirit of St. Francis,” Lis said. “We’re really happy to be a part of it.”
All photos by Mike Lang.